My Escape Island: Tenerife (Hawaii in Europe)
Tenerife is an island located south of Spain and although it belongs to it the truth is that it's more like a Neverland between Europe and Africa. The capital is Santa Cruz and it's located in the north of the island. I lived in the south because it is the only area where the temperature is warm all year long. The island has many faces: the main division is north-south. In the north, there is the capital, the work life, and the University. In the south the pace of life is slow, people work mainly in the tourism industry and enjoy the beach in the free time. Los Cristianos is the old downtown where you can find shops and restaurants. The touristy beaches are located in Las Americas, Las Veronicas, and Fanabe. If you want to escape the mass, the clusters of restaurants and the malls you need to drive northwest. The best beaches where locals go are: Playa San Juan and Playa de la Arena. The must see of the island are:
Teide is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic. It is the third highest volcano on a volcanic ocean island in the world after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. You can drive until you meet the cable car. The view from the top is spectacular.
Masca is a small mountain village. It is home to around 100 inhabitants. The village lies at an altitude of 600 meters. If you are not an expert driver you are strongly advised to join an excursion. The curves are dangerous. The height you reach is impressive and the view from above the canyon is literally breathtaking.
There are other excursions of course but in my opinion, the two that I mentioned are the best naturalistic experiences the island has to offer.
A couple of words about the people you will find in the south of the island:
Locals. People of the Canary Islands have a strong pride and they feel independent from Spain. They are aware that the island needs tourists to survive so this co-dependence creates a sort of love and hate relationship.
Tourists. Mainly from the UK, Germany, Russia and Italy. In this category, I also want to include the owners of timesharing that share the ownership of a house and come to the island every year or more than once a year.
Escapers. This is a special type very common in the island. What I noticed is that a lot of people that choose to live on the island seem to have some unresolved issues. I think that the appeal of the island is this idea of escaping from something (broken heart, stress, work disappointments, etc.). The problem is that those issues don't magically disappear on the island and often push these people towards to use alcohol and smoke to forget.
Retired elderly people. The island also has an appeal towards retired people that want to spend the last years of their lives in a warm place where the cost of living is low and you can buy a house for the cost of the car.
Then there are the exceptions, those few individuals that love the slow pace of life but they are also interested in building a career or a business. On a side note, with the all inclusive formula, tourists hardly leave the resorts to explore the surroundings so it's hard to develop a stable business. Many restaurants open and close within months.
Food specialties to try:
Papas arrugadas con mojo, croquetas, bocadillo de pollo mechado, albondigas, pescado encebollado, grilled calamari, rom miel, vodka caramel.
WHERE TO EAT (good food and few tourists):
El Mirador (Los Abrigos) for fresh fish, Rosy Bar (Las Americas) for cheap good sandwiches and local specialties, Saporita (Adeje) for good and creative authentic Italian food, El Caldero (La Caleta) for local tapas, La Flaca (Fanabe) for late easy dinners and drinks (cocktail La Flaca is my favorite).
Warning: if you want to spend some time on the island you will be quickly taken by the slow pace of life and some sort of careless way of living. You will drive just to go to the beach and you will drink more than the usual. This is the power of the island, take or leave.